Air Astana removes business class seats to boost capacity for medical freight

KAZAKHSTAN's Air Astana has begun removing seats from its business class cabin to make room for medical cargo

31 May 2020 - 19:00

KAZAKHSTAN's Air Astana has begun removing seats from its business class cabin to make room for medical cargo.

Most modifications so far - Air Canada 777s, Lufthansa A330s - have removed only the economy class seats while leaving the business class cabin installed.

But the premium lie-flat seats are now coming out of the 767s at Air Astana, a spokesperson confirmed.

Air Astana has encountered limitations when flying its 767s on cargo-only flights with a normal cabin installed.'We must strictly enforce European Aviation Safety Agency weight and volume regulations regarding cargo placed on seats,' Air Astana director of freight Zhanna Shayakhmetova said.

Air Astana's business class utilises around a quarter of the cabin floor space, and it plans to modify all three of its 767-300ERs for cargo, reports Forbes.

'We'll be able to considerably increase the volume of transported goods and offer our customers more flexible conditions,' Ms Shayakhmetova said.

Removing only economy class seats is a quick win. But gaining the extra capacity from the premium cabin is more difficult and time-consuming work. Individual seats have multiple parts intricately assembled. There is additional wiring for lights, power outlets, and IFE monitors.

While the 767 is usually not thought of as a new aircraft, Air Astana's are only about six years old and were received with a modern interior.

Yet despite a relatively young age, its 'converted semi-cargo' 767s may not return to passenger service - another reason to remove seats in all cabins.

Air Astana said it will decide by the end of July on a full cargo conversion. Perhaps in anticipation of an affirmative outcome, the airline has already launched a dedicated 'Air Astana Cargo' division.

While demand will ease for urgent Covid-19 medical supplies, general cargo needs will persist. Air Astana is 51 per cent owned by sovereign wealth fund Samruk Kazyna.

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